Molyneux Leaving Lionhead, Joining 22 Cans

By Jim Rossignol on March 7th, 2012 at 12:58 pm.

Peter see games!
As revealed by The Big K, Molyneux – creator of games like Magic Carpet, Syndicate, Black & White, The Movies, and Fable – is leaving Microsoft-owned Lionhead to join a start-up company. The former Bullfrogger, who was head of Microsoft Studios in Europe, said: “It is with mixed emotions that I made the decision to leave Microsoft and Lionhead Studios, the company that I co-founded in 1997, at the conclusion of development of Fable: The Journey… However, I felt the time was right to pursue a new independent venture.” He will also act as a creative consultant on Fable’s arm-waving variant for the Kinect.

Molyneux joins a new Guildford-based company, 22 Cans, which Molyneux has described as “something really amazing, scary and brave”. This new company was founded by Lionhead’s former chief technical officer Tim Rance, whose credits include Populous, Black & White, and Fable. They probably plan to make games.

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97 Comments »

  1. subedii says:

    Wha?

    Isn’t this exactly what he did with Bullfrog? Said that the studio had gotten too big for him, and with EA, too corporate, and set off to form his own, NEW AWESOME indie studio?

    EDIT: Come to think of it, considering what happened to Bullfrog next, if I were at Lionhead I might be worried around about now.

    • vodka and cookies says:

      Pretty much yeah, Peter was the marketing guy/liaison between Bullfrog and EA so when he left, Bullfrog did not fair so well in getting projects green lit and ultimately dissolved.

      Microsoft has been shedding internal game studios keeping only groups with a strong brand alive 343 for Halo and Lionhead for Fable, as long as Lionhead continue to make Fable they might still have a job but working on the same game universe forever could be daunting so that might be part of why Peter bailed.

    • subedii says:

      Speaking of the more console oriented shenanigans, I am kind of worried about 343 and what they’re going to be doing with the Halo franchise.

      Hearing them talk about their awesome “progression system” through which you “unlock” and “customise” loadouts and enhancements…

      Frankly it sounds as if they want to make the multiplayer in Halo go the CoD route. Which is dumb, and if there’s one trend in gaming I hate it’s how CoD’s unlock mechanics have become some kind of de-facto standard that you just HAVE to implement without thought (ironically, I feel the same about Halo’s recharging energy shield. Generally works for Halo, but 90% + of devs that implement it do so without thought of where it sits in the actual gameplay, purely because they think it’s the “modern” accepted solution).

    • Shuck says:

      “if I were at Lionhead I might be worried around about now.”
      As any industry veteran can tell you, being worried is pretty much a default state.

    • subedii says:

      More worried then.

    • lnbxzsg says:

      I don’t care if he doesn’t come up with anything new, just redo the old stuff from the 90′s that everybody knows and loves, then he can retire on a big mountain of cash. http://no.nl/hEYS

  2. Premium User Badge

    c-Row says:

    They probably plan to make games.

    What is this nonsense? I demand proper journalism, not this kind of far-fetched speculation! “Make games”…. pfft!

    • Premium User Badge

      Malcolm says:

      They should have listened to his voicemail messages at least; maybe sent someone round to rummage though his bins if they could be bothered to leave the house.

  3. WMain00 says:

    I can see Lionhead either collapsing or disappearing because of this. Meanwhile 22 cans will become the new backdrop to Molyneux’s constant continual drivel and hype.

  4. Auru says:

    This guy is a hype machine

    The games have always come off average though.. looking forward to the next big hype storm from him, always fun to follow.. never play the game :P

  5. djbriandamage says:

    I hope a small studio with lesser adherence to release schedules is what Molyneux needs to release games that live up to their potential. He’s put out so many games that are aaaaaaalmost there but turned out overpromised and underbaked. His games drip with personality and lighthearted wit so I’ll always have an ear for his grandiose promises, but I’ll remain skeptical of the man’s promises until he can put his money where his mouth is.

    I wonder whether he owns his Bullfrog IP – I was so certain and hopeful that we’d see a Magic Carpet remake but I fear EA owns the trademark.

    • Lenderz says:

      “I wonder whether he owns his Bullfrog IP – I was so certain and hopeful that we’d see a Magic Carpet remake but I fear EA owns the trademark. ”

      As the recent Syndicate remake shows, the answer is “probably not”.

    • meatshit says:

      Good, I say. Like Tim Schafer, Molyneux is someone I’d rather see working on a new IP instead of rehashing past glories.

  6. db1331 says:

    Can’t wait to hear all about how 22 Cans’ new game will forever change the medium of video games, with lifelike characters you can form a real emotional bond with, and a truly living world that shapes itself around every action you take.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      First he turned it up to 11, then doubled it!

    • Gnoupi says:

      In a way, that makes me sad for the guy. Because that’s for sure exactly the vision, the design he has. And yet, it turns up to not live to his expectations, each time.

      Now I’m not saying that his expectations are realistic, or that the devs were bad. But it feels like watching a kid dreaming about amazing things of life, only to realize that what is really, isn’t as magical.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      This amp goes to 22

    • db1331 says:

      I might feel bad for him if he did that once or twice, but he does it with every single game he makes. After showing off his on-rails Fable game for Kinect, I saw a video interview where he actually promised that players will form a bond with their horse unlike anything they’ve ever experienced in a game. He’s completely full of shit. The only question is whether or not he actually believes the stuff he spits out.

    • SuperNashwan says:

      Someone on rllmuk said it and now I won’t be able to read it otherwise. “Twenty toucans”.

    • Phantoon says:

      I don’t doubt he believes it. Hype machines are great at what they do because they’re self-fueling.

  7. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    …which Molyneux has described as “something really amazing, scary and brave”.

    So it’s actually something mildly amusing, milquetoast and slightly cowardly?

  8. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    I bet his new studio’s gonna be called Motormouth.

  9. Hoaxfish says:

    I like that link

    22 Cans has 1 employees

    and that 1 employee has 22 cans.

  10. Khemm says:

    He must have gotten fed up with MS forcing him to make Fable games for years.
    Good news, I say. He brought us some phenomenal games in the mid-late 90s, maybe he’ll reignite that spark of creativity he had and create something good again.

    • Torgen says:

      He’s like Garriott: remembered for the old-time magic which he has never recaptured, and has been given a bye of two decades of mediocrity wrapped in hype due to nostalgia. Neither one of these men is capable of what they once were, from their track records. They believe their own press releases too much.

    • Apolloin says:

      I know there’s a tendency to judge Molyneux harshly based on whether you think Fable is good or not and whether you think he talks too much about his games or not but for a large number of us who grew up on Syndicate, Populous, Powermonger, Dungeon Keeper et al it is always going to be difficult to discount what the man says entirely and write him off completely.

      Personally I hope that getting out from under the kind of ‘design by committee’ ‘focus tested to death’ corporate bullshit that is endemic in the industry and back to something a little smaller and freeform he’ll be able to make those games that nobody seems to have the stones to make anymore.

  11. Premium User Badge

    WeeMadAndo says:

    I remain cautiously optimistic about whatever comes next.

    Goddamn him and this potentially misguided loyalty.

  12. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    MS nail another can in their 3rd party studios they cannot have much left now apart from 343 Studios handling Halo 4 its like they are culling the lot eversince Xbox LIVE made them loads of cash they have clinically shut down almost every developer they had a stake in who made that possible!! Dangerous gamble for the next gen relying on goodwill as XBLA is already being deserted by the indie scene as too many T&C’s/red tape.

  13. wodin says:

    Populous and Warmonger (think thats what it’s name was) where great games…since then????

    • jroger says:

      Powermonger. An underappreciated classic. Ah, childhood memories. Later games often had interesting promises, but often failed gameplay-wise. (Black and White, I’m looking at you…)

    • Apolloin says:

      Since Populous and Powermonger? Let me think…

      Syndicate
      Theme Hospital
      Dungeon Keeper
      Flood
      Themepark

      Those are the unambiguous monstrous series that he worked on at Bullfrog. At Lionhead things started to go a bit wrong with the Black and White and Fable series. Nontheless this man has the sort of pedigree that means he can really only be compared to people like Sid Meier in that he is both the father of several genres and also the father of the defining games within those genres.

  14. Tom OBedlam says:

    This interests me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Molyneux as a hold over from the Bull Frog days, anti-cassandric prophecies aside. I’m definitely excited to hear what his new IP will be now he’s out from under the weight of Fable and Microsoft. It’d be nice to see him come back to the PC but that might be too much to ask.

  15. Drake Sigar says:

    The fact remains that Peter’s games are some of the most unusual and unique out there. Even seemingly shallow titles like The Movies were brilliant in their own way.

    • Belsameth says:

      This.

      I love his games, even tho I know I shouldn’t buy the hype.

      I have most of his games and, save Black and White 2, they didn’t disappoint. Maybe they didn’t do what he claimed they would, but still great.

      Edit: I also actually belive it when he says he’s not lying to drive hype, but just get carried away “a bit” by his own enthusiasm. Which, when taken into account, is actually a good thing. Lotsa passion to poor into games which generally shows.

      Gogo, Peter. I for one can’t wait!

    • InternetBatman says:

      I felt that way about everything except Fable. Yeah you could own a house and all that, but that’s not super unique.

    • Drake Sigar says:

      Fable had a lot going for it, as the little details added so much to the experience. The player aging, available methods both foul and fair to subvert that process, receiving scars from too many hits, etc. It felt like you had not just lived a single adventure, but a whole lifetime. Few (if any) modern games provided that.

    • OOS says:

      I still love The Movies, in spite of how flawed it is. I wish that someone would make a sequel to that thing and iron out the kinks, but it seems unlikely that that will ever happen.

  16. MadMatty says:

    Molyneux was good for a lot of stuff mid-early-nineties, making conceptual and technical masterpieces like Populous 1 & 2, Magic Carpet, Syndicate, Flood, Powermonger and some more.

    His output with Lionhead has unfortunately not been great, after “Black & White” which tried to do too much, and didn´t really work/come together. Fable was very derivative, not my cup of tea- had the impression that they tried to do something “Safe” with that, to get some money in the tank.

    I´m hoping for a return to Bullfrog´s brilliance with the 22 Cans studio. Molyneux is still good for money in my book, even though his PR snakeoil-selling appearances has been total Facepalm.

    • Uglycat says:

      I don’t care if he doesn’t come up with anything new, just redo the old stuff from the 90′s that everybody knows and loves, then he can retire on a big mountain of cash.

    • deke913 says:

      I agree. Remake dungeon keeper in modern graphics and change nothing else. I still have my original discs for dk and dk2 and populous.

  17. sneetch says:

    Hmmm… am I the only one who’s expecting their first game announcement to feature the words “social”, “accessible” and “Facebook” prominently?

    • db1331 says:

      Maybe it will be Project Milo. You know, that totally-real-and-in-no-way-heavily-scripted tech demo they first showed off the potential of Kinect with.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    Molyneux Leaving Lionhead, Joining 22 Cans…
    together with a piece of string to keep the pigeons away. Bloody pigeons.

    Molyneux Leaving Lionhead, Joining 20 Toucans…
    on their annual migration flight to the tropics.

    Molyneux Leaving Lionhead, Joining 20 Tucanos…
    with his brand spanking new pneumatic pop-rivet gun.

  19. DiamondDog says:

    I can respect the man’s past but his idea for where games should go in the future sends a chill down my spine.

    Strip out all the nuance and depth, just leave a shapeless blob. But it’s the colour of a rainbow and has a West Country accent!

  20. AxaliaN says:

    They better be making a new Dungeon Keeper!

  21. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Hey Pete, you’re a bit of a jerk.

  22. RogB says:

    if they ‘probably plan to make games’ that mostly involve flailing limbs around and pretending that its the future of gaming…

    I’m out

    /banatine

    • Apolloin says:

      It’s probably getting away from shite like the above that has motivated him to leave Lionhead.

      It’s always rough being a flagship studio that’s wholly owned by a tech platform – you forever get roped in to make a currently peripheral ‘strategic technology’ into a gamechanging homerun. The Kinetic is a classic example with Microsoft but I remember a studio I worked with for Sony being forced to make the mercury switches in the controller good for something… >_<

  23. InternetBatman says:

    I just got kind of bored with Fable. I liked his other games, but I haven’t been impressed since Black and White, which was something like a decade ago.

  24. rustybroomhandle says:

    Twenty toucans!

  25. McCool says:

    I wonder what the backstory is to this? Easy assumption is he was fed up with being owned by Microsoft – fair enough. Having more creative control over what type of games he wants to make is undoubtedly a good thing.

    The amount of snark/bile that comes up whenever Molyneux’s name is mentioned still frightens me. The idea of hating on a developer because their game didn’t live up to their own (and your) expectations seems like the most childish foot-stomping in the world. Yes, we know he said it would be better than it turned out to be. But where does all this entitlement come from? You got excited about the feature-creep, but then when the game didn’t meet your anticipation the tears start flowing and daddy-Molyneux is called a liar, a dick and everything else under the sun.

    Not being able to handle your own expectations/hype, or the fact that a developer’s own hopes for their game might not fully match up with the end product, is your problem not his. Molyneux’s wild posturings often lead to certifiable PR-disasters, but none of this warrants the crazy entitlement gamers seem to have nowadays. When a game isn’t what we wanted to be, that is a big disappointment. But adults spent years trying very hard to make it that game we all wanted, and always in some way fall short. When this happens, try and act like an adult, please.

    • RakeShark says:

      To respond to the entitlement line of thought…

      The problem with asking gamers/consumers to not bitch about unmet expectations is that Molyneux is very outspoken and a very public figure when it comes to his games. At the very basest of levels, he tells all of us to buy his games. That’s contextually very different than asking us individually if this product would be something we’d enjoy. We have to buy into promises, and hope he knows what he’s doing. When he doesn’t deliver on his promises, and still tells us to buy his game, that’s when bitching about his game is allowed. He he told us, for example, that before release Fable 2 isn’t the complete image of what he hoped it’d be, and he hopes we’ll still find it fun and enjoyable should we buy it, there’s less room to bitch because he’s being frank and honest about his artistic product.

      To paraphrase a saying, if you put yourself on a pedestal, expect to be laid out on a slab.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      Yeah i’m not big on entitlement either but when you say shit like “this will change the face of gaming” or “John Carmack is going to make you his bitch” expect to be destroyed when your title is just ‘decent’ or mediocre.

    • jroger says:

      Holding someone to their promises is not the same as entitlement. That said, I didn’t see much “bitching” about Molyneux in this thread at least. Just a (in my opinion) reasonable debate over previous Molyneux titles and what to possibly expect in the future.

  26. Zwebbie says:

    Knowing Molyneux, 22 cans will probably end up being about 3 cans and 19 can’ts.

    (just kidding, of course, I wish him the best.)

  27. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    He’s enough of a dreamer to fit right into the current indie wave. Good luck, man of big ideas.

    On that note, isn’t it weird how having a lot of money was actually preventing his ideas to be explored thoroughly? They were all simplified to give AAA profitability.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      It’s the catch 22 of fame and success. Once you get into making triple A marketible games, thats -ALL YOU CAN MAKE FOREVER-.

  28. gschmidl says:

    Presumably the 22 cans will be arranged to say SHY GYPSY SLYLY SPRYLY TRY and then they’ll need to buy some more for the rest of the puzzle.

  29. Alexandros says:

    Molyneux used to be absolutely brilliant before he joined Microsoft and (I’m guessing) went temporarily insane.

    Peter, if by any chance you’re reading this, your PC home is here and waiting for you. You’re now free, please go back to making those wonderful flawed gems you used to.

    • Apolloin says:

      Peter Molyneux correctly predicted the death of the major independent developer and caught a lifeline thrown by Microsoft. Seriously – there used to be plenty of indie devs who were big names in their own rights. Some of them had steady relationships with Publishers, but lots of them sold their games to whoever they thought would give them the best deal.

      Bullfrog, Psygnosis, Microprose and Team 17 to name but four in the UK. I’m sure that other countries had their own examples.

      When increasing complexity of content drove up team sizes which drove up budgets that relationship completely changed. All of the great indie names were bought out by Publishers and for the most part this caused the destruction of their own identity and the dissoloution of their teams. The indie scene has only just started getting big enough to support decent sized games again and my guess is that Peter has seen that coming and has gone back to what he enjoyed.

      Blaiming people like Peter Molyneux for ‘Triple-A Syndrome’ is counter-productive. Let’s see what the man does with some creative freedom and suggest he’s senile and irrelevant if his game supports that theory.

  30. alilsneaky says:

    How much longer is this clown going to get to ride off the success of games a company he was in made 20 years ago?

  31. Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

    If the guys main crime is being a tad over-ambitious in this era of play-it-safe-fps-it franchise raping drivel then I’m willing to make a stand right here and defend him.

    His ideas might not always make it to fruition but at least he has some and he isn’t afraid to take a crack it it, even if he does have to pull back a bit to actually ship a product.

    Mr. Molyneux, keep aiming for the stars. You may only hit the stratosphere but that is always better than wallowing in the muck with the rest of them.

  32. sidhellfire says:

    Why bother writing about someone who didn’t put anything valuable to the industry for ages?

    • trjp says:

      Why bother writing when you’ve added nothing AT ALL to the discussion?

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      Don’t even bother responding. Some people are happy with games companies dishing up the same unoriginal half baked shlock release after release. God forbid somebody tries to deliver something unique and interesting.

      • sidhellfire says:

        Molyneux could sometime deliver something good for a change. All he did with is pseudo-orignal ideas is a waste of investors money. He’s like big screaming face, that you cannot not notice, and whenever you look at it and it’s results you see a quite a failure. With his budget you could successfully cover dozen indie developers and each would deliver you something worthy mentioning. But no. You’ve got a shadow of a man from past, who only scares away potential investors.

    • pipman3000 says:

      wait are we talking about molyneux again?

  33. Ghoulie says:

    I know Molyneux has claimed to read comments about himself online in the past, so I’m going to post this as though he’s reading it.

    Good luck Mr. Molyneux, people may like to blast you online, but you have been one of my favorite creators in the industry and your games (not including Fable 2 and 3) are some of my absolute favorites.
    I cannot count the hours I used to pour into Dungeon Keeper, Black & White and Fable TLC just messing around.
    You even managed to create a genre along the way. Not a lot of people can claim that.
    You’re a dreamer and you pour all of your heart into your work, I find that absolutely wonderful.
    Perhaps you’ve been stagnating on the Fable franchise for too long though, so move on to newer untested grounds.
    Just keep on dreaming and make us fans proud.

  34. MistyMike says:

    How do you pronounce this guy’s name? Possibilities:
    Molly-new
    Molly-nez
    Molly-noi
    Molly-neugh?
    Accent on the ‘molly’?

  35. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I wonder if this is related to his outburst yesterday regarding the industry’s obsession with Call of Duty?
    Whatever spurred this, good luck to you Peter. You may cop a lot of flack, but I like the cut of your jib.

  36. Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

    THis post was not meant to be here

  37. MythArcana says:

    Hopefully now we can get away from the stupid console madness and get back to technology-driven powerhouse games from the sorely missed Bullfrog past. First EA killed Bullfrog, then MS pushed him into releasing XBAWKS crap, now it’s time for real PC gaming from The Man With The Plan.

  38. pipman3000 says:

    sure he’s been feeding me dog shit for the last 20 years but maybe this time it really will be chocolate like he promised! – rps commenters

    • Ghoulie says:

      I’ve found that only Fables 2 and 3 have been disappointments. All of his other games have been thoroughly enjoyable if a little rough around the edges.

    • Lenderz says:

      Bit wide with your date there Pipman3000, I wouldn’t call Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, Syndicate Wars, Theme Park, Magic Carpet, Black & White “dog shit”.

      Perhaps we have a different definition of what constitutes “dog shit”, perhaps you consider it a favourable thing?

      Don’t know about anyone else, but I loved the above games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Llewyn says:

      @Lenderz: I think it all depends on the age of the commenter. Those of us old enough to remember the 16-bit classics know that Molyneux is a huge creative talent who’s sadly lost his way as gaming platforms have evolved. Those who aren’t tend to assume that video gaming began whenever they started playing, and that therefore he’s never created anything great.

    • pipman3000 says:

      the exact date doesn’t matter when it comes to eating dog droppings

  39. standardman says:

    I heard ’22 Cans’ as ‘Twenty Toucans’ when this story came out, I’m dissapointed. You got me again, Molyneux!

  40. pipman3000 says:

    the french george lucas